Kentucky high school students are learning Swift and Java in a new immersive programming course that can lead to a paid IT apprenticeship. The program, run by a branch of the Louisville, KY-based tech services company Interapt called Interapt Skills, offers students class credit toward graduation, as well as nine credit hours from the Kentucky Community and Technical College System.
At a recent Interapt Skills event in Louisville, KY, I spoke with Izaak Prats, director of curriculum for Interapt Skills about why we need to get young people interested in computer science to fill tech skills gaps. Here is the transcript of our conversation.
Rayome: What is Interapt Skills?
Prats: Interapt Skills is a service to train people in technology. It's a very generic definition but we do train anywhere from high schoolers up to adults who want to re-engage into a technologically advanced workforce.
SEE: IT Hiring Kit: Programmer (Tech Pro Research)
We take the traditional learning model and turn it on its head. Instead of the teacher being the person who knows everything, they're the person who guides students into questions. They tell a student, "Hey, this is what we want to do next, how do we do it?" Students are there to figure out how to build things. The teacher's there to guide them through the path of what to build, they're the ones who are figuring out how to build it.
Rayome: Why is it so important for young people to learn technology skills?
Prats: The big thing for us is that there is a clear gap in the workforce between who knows tech and what companies need. Companies need a lot of people who know tech and it's just growing every single year but there aren't that many people who can competently do tech out of college and out of high school, especially in low income areas, high schools don't even have tech education and most of those kids don't go into college anyway. They're essentially left out of the current workforce. That is why it's so important to teach people how to code, especially at a young age because they then get the work experience that they need as well as a skill set that will be relevant in the years to come.
Rayome: What advice do you have for companies who are searching for tech talent?
Prats: For companies who are looking for tech talent, the biggest piece of advice I can offer is broaden your horizon. Look for people who may not be the traditional A plus student who graduated from an Ivy League that has a computer science degree. I don't have a degree and I've had to train those people when they come into companies.
I know firsthand that it is most often the student who has the most grit, whether or not they went to and Ivy League, that's the best candidate for a job. Not just the one that looks the best on paper.
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Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.